In this week’s episode of the Geeks OUT Podcast, Kevin is joined by Sammie James, as they discuss the new trailers for Loki, Cruella, Pose, & Star Trek: Discovery and celebrate all the winners for the GLAAD Media Awards in This Week in Queer.
KEVIN: Regé-Jean Page responds to racist reasons he wasn’t cast on Krypton SAMMIE: New trailer for the final season of Pose
DOWN AND NERDY
KEVIN: Thunder Force, What Lies Below, Them SAMMIE: Creepshow, Wynonna Earp, What Big Teeth
Liselle Sambury is a Toronto-based Trinidadian Canadian author. Her brand of writing can be described as “messy Black girls in fantasy situations.” She works in social media and spends her free time embroiled in reality tv because when you write messy characters you tend to enjoy that sort of drama. She also shares helpful tips for upcoming writers and details of her publishing journey through a YouTube channel dedicated to helping demystify the sometimes complicated business of being an author. I had the chance to interview Liselle, which you can read below.
Congratulations on your debut! Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming book, Blood Like Magic?
Blood Like Magic is about a family of Black witches living in a near future Toronto, and in particular, sixteen-year-old Voya Thomas who is given the horrifying task of either killing her first love or losing her family’s magic forever.
What drew you to writing? Do you remember the first stories/authors that inspired you to writeor simply strengthen your love of reading?
There wasn’t anything specific that drew me to writing, I just wanted a way to vent my feelings and tell stories that distracted me when I was having a hard time, and writing ended up being that medium. I honestly didn’t even read much. I volunteered in the library in elementary school because I wanted to be indoors during recess. I was that kind of kid. But I did love to go to the public library, and I would basically pick out anything that interested me. I was a big fan of the Saga of Darren Shan which was a gruesome vampire series. I devoured those books so it’s not surprising that I hopped right on the Twilight train when it came around.
As a writer, where do you find your sense of inspiration and what sources do you draw on to refresh your creativity?
I find that books, TV shows, and movies are fantastic fuel for my inspiration. Books so often make me think ‘wow I wish I could write something like this’ and spur me on that way because I’m so invested in trying to create an experience like that, or, like in the case of Blood Like Magic, trying to add to an experience I didn’t get when I was younger. With TV Shows and movies though, it’s often that there’s an aspect unexplored that nags at me, and I have to write that unexplored premise. Anime is usually where I discover a lot of different ways of telling a story that I’ve never seen or heard of. Some anime just blows my mind with the sorts of narratives they weave, and that’s also incredibly inspiring.
Your debut book is said to feature a magic system with strong New Orleans roots. Could you tell us something about that?
The magic in the book doesn’t draw from anything existing in New Orleans purposely because I truly don’t know enough about those cultures and that history. Those practices that have real ties and significance in that region, and I don’t know enough to write it into my work. However, I was familiar with some of the historical events during the period of slavery that happened in New Orleans when it was the U.S. Territory of Orleans. The particular event that stuck out was the revolt that occurred nearby, led by slaves in sugar plantations. With the combination of the history within slavery and of African folk magic in that area, it just felt like the right place for the Thomas witches have ancestors from.
I actually tried to dig into my ancestral history to see if I could pinpoint where my ancestors were from when they were slaves in the U.S. to use that location, but due to the nature of colonialism and records, I unfortunately wasn’t able to find anything.
Your protagonist, Voya Thomas, comes from a Trinidadian-Canadian background like yourself, correct? Was it always your intention to have this aspect mirrored in your fiction, and what are your thoughts on Caribbean representation in the YA world today?
I had always intended to write Voya as Trinidadian-Canadian because I really wanted to put that experience into a story. Prior to Blood Like Magic, I hadn’t explored that in my fiction and thought it would be fun to show that experience. I was truly putting a lot of myself into the story and that’s such a huge part of me.
I think we’re starting to see more Caribbean rep in YA now which is really exciting like Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart and Where The Rhythm Takes You by Sarah Dass, which are both coming out this year. I haven’t read a lot of stories with Caribbean rep in YA so I’m really happy to add my voice. Especially within a Canadian context because I find that to be less common in YA as well.
Since Geeks OUT is a queer centered website, could you tell us a bit about the LGBTQ+ characters that will be featured in your book, including the main character’s love interest who is a trans man?
Of course! Luc, the love interest is trans man and he’s my snarky genius. Voya’s cousin Alex is a trans woman, and she’s the fashionista of the family with a talent for sewing and design. Voya’s other cousin Keisha is lesbian and demiromantic, does modelling part-time, and never holds back her opinion. Johan is the head of a family with close ties to the Thomases and he’s gay. One of his sons, Topaz, is also gay, but it’s not explicitly said until the second book.
Aside from witches, are there other magical/mythological/ spiritual backgrounds you are drawn to?
I am a big fan of ghosts which is hilarious because I’m actually really fearful of death and have no desire to ever experience a ghost sighting. But I think there’s something super intriguing about the idea of unfinished businesses and the world beyond death that can be explored in really interesting ways. I loved Watch Over Me by Nina LaCour because she took the idea of ghosts and created a completely unexpected story that was so beautiful.
What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet and wish you were asked (and your answer to that question)?
I don’t actually think that I’ve asked who the easiest and hardest character to write were, but I love that question. I have found that Voya is the hardest for me to write because I frequently struggle with getting her motivation as a character just perfect, and it’s hard to make a character who has difficulty with decisions active in the narrative. I’m so dedicated to telling her story right that I tend to spend a lot of extra time with her. On the flip side, I find her cousin Keisha the easiest and the most fun to write. I have no idea why. I think she just asserted herself as a character with a really strong voice and so it just flows. I absolutely love her.
Are there any other projects or story ideas you are currently nursing and could tell us about?
Right now, I’m working on my first novel-length adult project which is currently uncontracted. It’s going to be a horror, but no ghosts this time. It’ll edge on thriller and include discussions about toxic workplace environments and culture.
What advice would you give for writers who are exploring their own creativity and looking to step up their game?
I would highly recommend reading and writing craft books. That’s something that I do a lot even now and there’s so much you can learn from them. And I would say to read a variety because you may find some you agree with that work for you and some you don’t. They also often have exercises that you can do to experiment with your writing and find what works best for you. I just find that guidance to be so helpful.
Finally, what are some LGBTQ+ stories you would recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?
I would definitely recommend Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas which is about a trans brujo who accidentally summons a ghost who won’t leave. A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth about four queer fae teens solving a murder mystery (also set in Toronto!). Sweet and Bitter Magic by Adrienne Tooley which is a fantasy about a girl cursed to live without love and a girl trying to save her father who makes a bargain. And finally, Surrender Your Sons by Adam Sass which is about teens escaping from a conversion camp and has such an amazing use of atmosphere and dread.
In this week’s episode of the Geeks OUT Podcast, Kevin is joined by Aaron Porchia, as they discuss the new trailer for Space Jam: A New Legacy which is packed full of IP’s, Charmed adding more trans representation to the cast, and celebrate FX’s new docu-series Pride in This Week in Queer.
Amanda McLoughlin is the creator and CEO of Multitude, an independent podcast collective and production studio based in New York City. Multitude produces original shows, publishes free resources for podcasters, and helps clients of all sizes create, market, and grow great shows. A YouTuber and small business advisor before starting Multitude, her career is dedicated to helping other creators make a living by making great stuff online.
Julia Schifini is a historian, voice actor, sound designer, and lover of all fancy foods. She is a co-host and producer of Spirits, a co-host of Join the Party, and the Community Manager of Multitude. She loves world-building, professional wrestling, fancy cheese, and all things creepy and cool. You can hear her sound design on podcasts like Janus Descending and Valence, and voice acting on Tides and What’s the Frequency.
I had the chance to talk with Amanda and Julia about Spirits, which you can read below.
First of all, how did you come to know each other and how did you come to decide to work on a podcast together?
JS: We jokingly refer to ourselves as “companions from the cradle”, but we met in elementary school. Our weirdness just jived since the beginning and we stayed friends all through school and past college. After we both entered the workforce, we would meet up at bars and lament how draining our jobs could be. We realized that we needed a way to make time to see each other and talk about things that we normally would talk about anyway. So naturally, having drinks and talking about death and mythology seemed like the perfect excuse.
Can you explain your thought process behind the title Spirits?
AM: Fittingly enough, it came to us in a bar! The double entendre of ghost spirits and alcohol spirits was too good to pass up. It’s easy to say, spell, and search for, and coupled with our cover art by Allyson Wakeman, tells people they can expect a lot of both on our show.
Where did your interest in folklore and mythology come from? What were some early stories you were drawn to growing up and why do you think it resonates with so many people?
JS: I picked up a copy of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology arguably WAY too young, and it really struck a chord with me. The stories of Athena, Artemis, and Persephone felt empowering before I realized that was something that was missing from the books I was reading and the shows I was watching. But nowadays it is the universality of the stories of mythology from around the world that keep me interested – seeing how human beings explain the world around them, no matter where they are on the globe.
AM: I mainly learned my Greek myths from Julia reading library books on the playground, so not a lot has changed! Since starting the show, I’ve gotten even more interested in all things mythology. I try to read really widely about both historical and contemporary cosmologies and folkloric traditions from around the world.
A large component of your podcast includes discussing LGTBQIA+ topics in fiction and mythology, bringing a queer lens to otherwise straight narratives? Can you expand on this?
AM: It’s been a priority from the beginning to center the stories of queer people, women, survivors, and other people whose stories have been erased, minimized, or villainized in the retelling. But at the same time, as queer people we can’t help but bring a queer lens to the stories we share. Julia does a great job selecting stories that I’ll find a way to connect with, and we try to create an environment where both of us and our guests can bring our whole selves to that connection.
What are some topics you haven’t covered yet but that you would love to cover in the future?
JS: We are working on bringing on some more Indigenous and African guests to talk more about their respective traditions and folklore!
As someone who has just admittedly gotten into podcasts this year, what do you think draws you in about this medium? What are some of your favorite examples?
AM: People celebrating niche interests is my favorite genre of podcast—and the whole mission of Multitude, the podcast collective of which Spirits is a founding member. Podcasting really lends itself to unexpected intersections of people, topics, and styles, resulting in shows like Exolore (astrophysicist/folklorist Moiya McTier examines worldbuilding in all kinds of fictional universes), One to Grow On (agriculture is political and fascinating), and Advice for/from the Future (what to do if your partner wants to go to Mars, and other advice for futuristic problems).
What advice would you have to give for people who are interested in creating and promoting their own podcast?
JS: Find something that makes you unique, and something that you will be passionate about. There are a lot of podcasts out there (I think a recent study said that in 2020, there were 885,000 new podcasts, which is two new podcasts every minute), so you need to figure out what you are bringing to audiences that they haven’t heard before.
What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet or wish you were asked?
AM: I’m always really interested in how other creators make a living. I write and talk a lot about the business of podcasting, from how we depend on audience support via Patreon to the intricacies of sponsorship booking for podcasts. I wish money wasn’t such a fraught topic to discuss openly, but in the meantime, if anyone out there wants advice or support setting rates or negotiating with a company, hit me up.
Finally, what are some LGBTQ+ media (i.e books/ comics/ podcasts/etc.) you would recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?
JS: Here’s my top LGBTQ+ books from the past year: The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall, The First Sister by Linden A. Lewis, Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, and Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey.
AM: I’ve gotten really into romance novels over the last year, and my favorite LGBTQ+ books in that genre so far include Once Ghosted, Twice Shyby Alyssa Cole, the Feminine Pursuits series by Olivia Waite, and Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall. I also love the podcasts Friendshipping, Queery, Gender Reveal, and Bad Queers! Finally, gotta plug the other fantastic members of the Multitude collective. Head over to multitude.productions to learn about them!